Monday, November 08, 2010

Now this looks like a comfy coffin to spend a career in!

{Photo by rocketlass.}

It's hard to go anywhere on the Liternet these days without encountering someone lamenting the death of publishing. Which led me to smile on encountering this exchange, from David Karp's Leave Me Alone:
"Now this is interesting"--Arthur said, folding his arms. "If Searington and Company [Publishing] is not a business then what the devil do you think it is?"

Eleanor moved her hands helplessly. "God knows what it is. Some sort of medieval left-over--like people who trace coats of arms, or the last armorer left in the world who makes chain mail for MGM movies about knights. All I know is that it isn't a business--what sort of business is it that tries to supply a product that no one wants? Who reads books today? You've told me yourself that fiction sales have fallen away to nothing--that eight of ten novels you publish you lose money on."
Leave Me Alone was published in 1957.

Later in the book, the protagonist recalls that in his first interview for a publishing job, a storied, Maxwell Perkins-like editor said to him, "Why do you want to be in publishing? It's a dying occupation."

All of which leads me to assume that Gutenberg, as he unscrewed the press to reveal his first printed page, was probably already worrying about format changes, delinquent payments, catastrophic returns . . . oh, and the possibility that his entire audience just might up and die of cholera at any moment. Even the heartiest grumblers would have to agree that least some things are better today.

1 comment:

  1. Came across your blog recently and enjoy it immensely. As a former small press publisher, I had to laugh out loud when I read this post.